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Educating Generation Y In Robotics

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering and Other Disciplines

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.510.1 - 14.510.9



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Paper Authors

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David Chang United States Military Academy

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Peter Hanlon United States Military Academy

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Kirk Ingold United States Military Academy

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Robert Rabb United States Military Academy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Educating Generation ‘Y’ In Robotics


We present our approach to educating the new Generation ‘Y’ using robotics in undergraduate education. This course is a laboratory based education for life-long learners through a look at a new course for non engineering majors in the senior year. As the centerpiece of this course, we use a robotics platform to integrate introductory programming material with electrical engineering theory. We move away from the traditional note taking and testing model as students start to become life-long learners, creators, and innovators through exposure to small scale engineering problems. The initial assessments of our approach have been very positive. Presenting students with a problem and allowing them to work in interdisciplinary groups to develop solutions using a robotics platform yielded over 70% felt they learned more, were inspired to learn and it fits the students learning style by integrating a robotics platform in their curriculum.


Today, a majority of students in the classrooms of colleges and universities across the country were born after 1981 as Generation ‘Y’ or the MTV generation. An unprecedented number of these young people lived in households where both parents work or in single parent households where the single parent is employed. Generation ‘Y’ belongs to a generation in which daycares, babysitters, televisions and peers serve as surrogate parents1. Because many of them have grown up with computers, a majority of youth in this generation are technologically literate. In fact, intrinsic to the proliferation of technology, modern tools of communication such as the internet, beepers and cell phones are social lifelines for this generation. Consequently, youth of today are more independent, resourceful and peer dependent2. They also tend to be inventive and are self- sufficient problem solvers. They often desire support and feedback, but detest authoritative control. Accustomed to immediate gratification, youth in these generations are responsive. They crave stimulation and expect immediate answers and feedback3. Recently National Academy of Engineering, Committee on the Engineer of 2020 published Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century that offers recommendations on how to enrich and broaden engineering education so graduates are better prepared to work in a constantly changing global economy. This addressed how students learn as well as what they learn in order to ensure that student learning outcomes focus on the performance characteristics needed in future engineers. If the United States is to maintain its economic leadership and be able to sustain its share of high-technology jobs, it must prepare for this wave of change4.

Today's college students are typically very comfortable with technology, have shorter attention spans, a low threshold for boredom, resist memorization and busy work and prefer action to observation9. Learning styles of these generations are more active and visual rather than verbal. Given the distinguishing attributes of these new generations, including a highly visual imagination, educators are obliged to explore different and innovative teaching strategies that effectively address students in terms that they easily recognize and comprehend. For effective instruction to occur, the educator should traverse the world of the learner. Brown3 suggested that

Chang, D., & Hanlon, P., & Ingold, K., & Rabb, R. (2009, June), Educating Generation Y In Robotics Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4968

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